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Driving Tips for New Zealand
Driving in New Zealand is a dream, whether it s on the well-maintained city roads, the state highways crossing the country s North and South Islands or the mountain roads winding over the high passes. As much of the landscape is uninhabited, with few petrol stations, carrying a spare can of fuel and a bottle of water is best.
Driving licences: UK driving licences permit driving here, but visitors from non-English speaking countries should have either an International Driving Permit or an English translation of their licence.
Which side does New Zealand drive on: the left.
Residential areas: 31mph (50kph)
Highways: 62mph (100kph)
Near schools or road works: 12mph (20kph)
Alcohol limits: drink-driving laws are rigorously enforced here, with the blood alcohol limit the same as in the UK, at 0.08 per cent for those over 20, and zero tolerance for younger drivers.
Driving age: 15 years, with the legal age for renting a car 21 years.
Seatbelts: the driver and all passengers are required by law to wear seatbelts, with fines issued if the law is disobeyed. Children under five years of age must be carried in a child seat.
Mobile phones and GPS: mobile phone usage for calls while driving is only permitted if a hands-free kit is fitted. Other uses such as emailing, listening to music or viewing GPS maps on the phone while driving are banned.
Cost of fuel in New Zealand: 91-octane petrol is cheaper than in the UK and the cost of diesel is less than half the UK price.
Car hire and fuel payment: car hire companies prefer credit card payments and petrol stations in New Zealand s urban areas accept credit cards. In remote rural areas, cash is usually the only way to pay.
Insurance: third-party and fire insurance is normally included in the car hire rate, with extras such as collision damage waiver and theft recommended.
Traffic and parking: traffic in city centres is congested at rush hours, but traffic on the major highways and rural roads is usually minimal. Street parking is usually possible. Yellow lines and bus or taxi lanes disallow parking and in large cities, parking often has a pay-and-display or metered time limit.
Getting around by train offers three of the world s most scenic routes: Auckland to Wellington via the Overlander service, the TranzCoastal from Christchurch to Picton and the TranzAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth. The modern, comfortable trains have heating in winter and air conditioning in summer, spectacular views are guaranteed and various saver and super-saver fares, including the Scenic Rail Pass, help with the cost. A seven-day Scenic rail pass allowing unlimited train travel and one ferry trip costs 240 as against the single return fare on the TransAlpine of 127 for the five-hour journey. Bookings can be made through the KiwiRailscenic website.
Taxis in New Zealand are available 24 hours in the major cities and most large towns, and can be called by phone, picked up at a rank or hailed on the street more than a quarter-mile from a designated taxi rank. Most taxi companies belong to the New Zealand Taxi Federation and observe its code of conduct, ensuring the service is safe and comfortable. Rates are normally between 1 and 1.50 per kilometre, with extra charges for night travel and pre-booking by phone.